Public Speaking for High School Students– A Skill Worth Perfecting


Public speaking is a scary proposition for anyone of any age, especially so for inherently shy and/or introverted people. For high-school students, in particular, public speaking is like the ginormous elephant in the room. Not only is it an unavoidable part of academia, but it is often the very first time they are required to speak (loud and clear!) in a room full of people, making the whole ordeal incredibly daunting.

Yet public speaking is one of life’s most invaluable skills, one that helps students excel not only in high school and college but in their later careers as well.Developing the skills needed to excel in public speaking is not difficult for high school students, but it will require many to take a huge leap out of their comfort zones.

Why is public speaking so important?

When high school students perfect the art of public speaking, they learn to channel their ideas and convey them coherently. They gain the skills needed to ‘speak up’ (literally and figuratively speaking), motivate others, hold attention, spread important information, and influence outcomes in any and all fields.

Public speaking is the oldest form of communication, and it is as essential today as it was in the days of Aristotle, the renowned ‘father’ of public rhetoric.

Want to channel your inner ancient Greek philosopher and perfect the art of public speaking?

Here are some useful tips that’ll help you do just that.

Contribute more in class

High school classes are usually divided into two groups of students: those who continuously raise their hands to contribute and those who don’t. Guess who’ll make terrific public speakers? You guessed it – those who aren’t shy about using their voices.If you happen to belong to the latter group, now’s a great time to make the switch and start working on your confidence.

Now, it’s essential to understand the difference between making a contribution and making a useful contribution, in any public speaking situation. How does one do that? By being prepared, paying attention, and coming up with original ideas noone in the class has yet to raise. Because whilst ‘anyone’ in the class can learn to be loud and proud, only those who’ve developed their critical thinking skills will get noticed for all the right reasons.

Research topics thoroughly

If the aim is to be an effective public speaker, you need to know what you’re talking about. The best public speakers flawlessly convey authority because they most often are an authority in whatever subject is being discussed. So do your research and know your stuff – and do this by tapping into a variety of sources and considering every angle of discussion.

Think high school is not the place for in-depth knowledge? You’re sorely mistaken! As a high school student who wishes to improve their public speaking skills, you simply need to know more about the subject at hand than your peers. Remember that when it comes to your next class presentation, and become the authority everyone wants to listen to. Make your presentation engaging, funny, fascinating – whatever angle comes naturally to you, and you’ll have your fellow students hanging from your every word.

Practice, practice, practice

Like every other life skill worth developing, public speaking is something high school students get better at with practice. Loads and loads of practice. You can do this at home, in front of the mirror, the cat, the dog (a little less judgy than the cat, perhaps), the family, or anyone else with whom you’d feel comfortable rehearsing.

Before you start your trial run, make sure you note the basic rules of effective public speaking (speak slowly and enunciate every word, make eye contact with your audience, and engage them by varying your tone) so you’re not rushing through your talk just to get the torture over and done with. The great thing about trial-running at home is that your family might help you perfect your argument by bringing up points you may not have considered. All of this is a great way to polish your presentation and build your self-confidence in the process.

Push yourself – you’ll be so grateful, in the long run

Once you make the decision to perfect your public speaking skills, then you must take the leap and be ‘all in’. Be the one who chooses public speaking, who actively seeks it. If you’re ever given a choice of a written or oral presentation, always choose the latter (even if it makes you a little nauseous). Join the debating team, take an extra-curricular public speaking course and watch the most successful TED talks ever given. Study them and try to determine what made the speaker so popular – how do they elicit empathy and engagement from the audience, what skills do they use (not just in the content but also mannerisms, tone of voice, and facial expressions) to keep people hooked on their words? Learn from the best so you can be the best and maybe even give your own TED Talk like students of this Shanghai international school did at TEDxYouth@WISS!

Choose your topics wisely

It might seem a little obvious by now, but it is important to choose topics you’re passionate about, first and foremost, when practicing your public speaking skills. Topis don’t need to be ‘generally popular’ for presentations to be engaging – if you’ll learn anything about the above-mentioned TED talks is that the range of topics is insanely varied. The most passionate, informed, and engaging entomologist can make anyone interested in and fascinated by insects – because their passion shines through their presentations, and that’s what makes all the difference.The great thing about choosing a topic you’re truly passionate about is that it makes everything else (the research and the practice) so much more enjoyable than it would be otherwise.

Many high school students consider public speaking a necessary evil of their curriculum. In reality, however, it is the first and perhaps best chance to truly perfect a crucial life skill that will serve them well in the future, both professionally and personally.

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